Study reveals most (and least) reliable airlines in 2022

In this week’s roundup, a new study of federal statistics determines the nation’s most (and least) reliable airlines in a year marked by flight disruptions; Oakland is expected to have a new option for travel to El Salvador in the spring; low-cost Zipair begins flights from San Jose to Tokyo on Monday; Air Canada adds a long route from Sacramento next summer; there’s international route news from Qantas, Delta, American and Spirit Airlines; low-cost Breeze Airways adds five new routes to Southern California; JetBlue unveils a major overhaul of its TrueBlue frequent flyer program; TSA pushes back enforcement of its Real ID requirement for driver’s licenses by two more years; an Alaska Airlines promotion gives customers a quick way to achieve elite status in its Mileage Plan progam; and the opening of Newark Airport’s new Terminal A to passengers has been delayed until next month.

As we near the end of a year that was famous for airline operational problems — canceled and delayed flights, lost bags, long airport lines and so on — the folks at Nerdwallet decided to pore over a range of data from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics to see how U.S. carriers performed. Given the lag time in reporting and posting of data, they analyzed numbers in several categories from July 2021 through June 2022 and crunched them together to determine an overall winner.

Among the nine airlines in the study (Alaska, American, Delta, Frontier, Hawaiian, JetBlue, Southwest, Spirit and United), Nerdwallet created a five-point scale that ranked Hawaiian as the most reliable U.S. airline with a score of 5.0 and JetBlue as the least reliable with a 1.6 score. Hawaiian ranked first in on-time operations with 86% of its flights arriving within 15 minutes of schedule, while JetBlue ranked last with a 65% on-time rate. Hawaiian also performed best in the percentage of flights canceled (0.81%) while JetBlue came in eighth with 3.81% (although Spirit was worse at 4.11%). Hawaiian had the smallest rate of mishandled baggage at 0.28% while JetBlue ranked seventh at 0.60% (Alaska and American had higher rates of mishandled bags at 0.70% and 0.84% respectively).

And here’s a remarkable statistic on passenger “bumpings” (when a passenger with a confirmed reservation isn’t allowed to fly because the flight was overbooked): “Hawaiian didn’t record a single involuntary denied boarding for the period analyzed. On the other end, Frontier denied boarding to 5,657 flyers, while American did the same to 7,912 passengers,” Nerdwallet said.

A passenger takes his luggage at the Volaris airline hall at the Benito Juarez International Airport, in Mexico City.

A passenger takes his luggage at the Volaris airline hall at the Benito Juarez International Airport, in Mexico City.

PEDRO PARDO/AFP via Getty Images

East Bay residents will have a new option for travel to Central America next spring. Volaris El Salvador, a subsidiary of the Mexican low-cost carrier Volaris, announced plans to start flying non-stop from Oakland International to San Salvador on March 26, using an Airbus A320neo to operate four flights a week (Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday). The southbound leg will be a redeye. OAK is one of three U.S. gateways the airline plans to add in March. Its schedule also includes four weekly flights from San Salvador to Houston Bush Intercontinental and three a week to Miami (operating via a stop in San Pedro Sula, Honduras).

Dec. 12 is the launch date for Zipair Tokyo’s new nonstop service from Mineta San Jose to Tokyo Narita. Zipair, the low-cost international subsidiary of Japan Airlines, will initially fly the route three days a week (Monday, Thursday and Saturday), increasing to five times a week as of Jan. 11 and to daily service later in 2023. The carrier will use a two-class 787 with 18 fully flat seats and 272 standard seats, offering free in-flight Wi-Fi. SJC is Zipair’s second U.S. gateway; it has been flying to Los Angeles International for the past 12 months. To check schedules and fares, go to

In other international route news, Sacramento is expected to welcome new Air Canada service next summer when the carrier introduces four weekly flights to its hub at Toronto Pearson Airport beginning June 2. Qantas has launched new nonstop 787 service three days a week between Dallas/Fort Worth and Melbourne, supplementing its existing DFW-Sydney flights. The 17-hour Melbourne flight will be code-shared with Qantas’ partner American Airlines. Delta this month started flying a seasonal “triangular” route four days a week that goes from its Atlanta hub to Johannesburg, South Africa, and continues to Cape Town before returning to the U.S., and on Dec. 17 it plans to add separate nonstop turnaround flights from ATL to Cape Town three days a week, so both South African cities will have daily service from Atlanta.   

Volcan Momotombo and Lake Managua near Managua, the capital of Nicaragua.

Volcan Momotombo and Lake Managua near Managua, the capital of Nicaragua.

Nik Wheeler/Corbis via Getty Images

Elsewhere, both American Airlines and Spirit Airlines have resumed daily service from the U.S. to Managua, Nicaragua, after a 2-year hiatus due to the pandemic. American’s service operates from its Miami International hub with a 737-800, while Spirit serves Managua from Fort Lauderdale with an Airbus A320neo. American is also planning to eliminate its route from Miami to Paramaribo, Suriname, on March 1, but has scheduled new regional daily flights on June 1 from Miami to Lettsome International Airport in the British Virgin Islands — the only direct service there from the U.S. mainland.

On the domestic side, low-cost Breeze Airways revealed plans for another round of expansion coming in the spring, including new transcontinental routes. At Los Angeles International, Breeze plans to introduce service to Providence, Rhode Island, on May 17 (the longest route in its network) and to Norfolk, Virginia, on May 19, with two flights a week in each market. Breeze said it will also start using new slots it acquired at Orange County Airport in Santa Ana to begin service to Columbus, Ohio, on March 29; to Cincinnati, Ohio, and Providence on March 30; and to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on March 31. Columbus and Pittsburgh should get two flights a week while Providence and Cincinnati three.  

TrueBlue is a customer rewards program offered by JetBlue Airways.

TrueBlue is a customer rewards program offered by JetBlue Airways.

SOPA Images/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

JetBlue this week unveiled an effort to strengthen and expand customer loyalty starting next year with a major overhaul of its TrueBlue loyalty program. The revamped TrueBlue introduces a new loyalty metric called “tiles” based on total spending — not just on flights but also ancillary fees and related travel services booked through JetBlue affiliates like hotels, rental cars, activities and so on, and for spending on JetBlue credit cards. The new program also splits the TrueBlue Mosaic elite status into four levels, and lets TrueBlue members start to earn customizable perks and benefits even before they qualify for Mosaic status.

“While still earning valuable points that can be redeemed for award travel, TrueBlue members will also earn tiles based on their combination of travel spend and credit card spend, not just one or the other,” JetBlue said. Members will earn one tile for every $100 in spending, including packages and travel arrangements through JetBlue Vacations or the airline’s Paisly booking service and on flights operated by JetBlue partner American Airlines; and one tile for every $1,000 in qualifying spending on all JetBlue credit cards. Total tiles earned will determine progress toward Mosaic status as well as the availability of special perks for pre-Mosaic members. In the spring, the company said, the existing program of Mosaic-qualifying points and segments will be retired. When that happens, “Mosaic members will be assigned a Mosaic level based on how much they spent in 2022 or how much they spent in 2023, whichever is greater. They’ll immediately begin enjoying the Mosaic Signature Perks of each level and will have the opportunity to select Mosaic ‘Perks You Pick’ associated with that level.”

The new requirements for elite status levels in the program range are 50 tiles for Mosaic 1, 100 for Mosaic 2, 150 for Mosaic 3, and 250 for Mosaic 4. TrueBlue members who haven’t yet earned Mosaic status can begin to select “Perks You Pick” once they have 10 tiles, with options including priority boarding, expedited access to security screening, an in-flight alcoholic drink, double points for booking a vacation package, or a 5,000-point bonus in their TrueBlue account. For every additional 10 tiles earned, up to 50, members can select another perk. 

The Points Guy did a deep dive into the new program and concluded there are a few drawbacks for some members. Existing Mosaic members can currently upgrade to extra-legroom seats any time after booking, but once the four-tier Mosaic status begins, “Mosaic Level 1 will only include free ‘Even More Space’ seats during check-in, and there won’t be any option to redeem points for these seats before the 24-hour window,” The Points Guy said. Also, the current system has a shortcut to Mosaic status by flying 30 segments a year, but “there are no longer any reduced requirements for those who fly a lot. All that matters is how much you spend — a trend that’s emerged at all major U.S. airline loyalty programs in recent years.” 

A TSA agent checks the identification of a passenger as she passes through security in the terminal at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Arlington, Va.

A TSA agent checks the identification of a passenger as she passes through security in the terminal at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Arlington, Va.

SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images

Congress passed a law in 2005 mandating certain minimum security standards for state-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards used to prove identity at Transportation Security Administration checkpoints. The Department of Homeland Security was tasked with developing the details of the so-called Real IDs and the date when all personal IDs had to conform. That date has been repeatedly delayed, and now it has been delayed again. In recent months, TSA has been issuing public advisories reminding travelers that their licenses must be Real ID-compliant by May 3, 2023, but this week the date has been pushed back to May 7, 2025. 

“This extension will give states needed time to ensure their residents can obtain a REAL ID-compliant license or identification card,” said Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. TSA noted that the latest delay was caused by the “lingering impacts” of COVID-19. “REAL ID progress over the past two years has been significantly hindered by state driver’s licensing agencies having to work through the backlogs created by the pandemic,” the agency said. “Many of these agencies took various steps in response to the pandemic including automatically extending the expiration dates of driver’s licenses and identification cards and shifting operations to appointment only.” Details on the program are available at

Alaska Airlines has a temporary shortcut for California residents who want to earn elite status in the airline’s Mileage Plan loyalty program. Members who register online and complete two round-trip flights to the East Coast from San Francisco, Los Angeles or San Diego in the first quarter of 2023 will be rewarded with Mileage Plan MVP status. Those who complete four round trips will get MVP Gold status. Qualifying routes from San Francisco include Boston, New York JFK, Newark, Washington Dulles, Washington Reagan National, Orlando and Tampa. The elite status will take effect four to six weeks after completing the flights and will be good through the rest of 2023. In other news, Mileage Plan now allows members to use their miles for travel to Israel on its partner El Al. Mileage costs will start at around 40,000-50,000 miles one-way, according to View from the Wing

Newark Liberty International Airport in April 2020, in New Jersey.

Newark Liberty International Airport in April 2020, in New Jersey.


Last month, we reported on the ribbon-cutting for Newark Liberty International’s new Terminal A, which was scheduled to begin handling passengers on Dec. 8. But now the beginning of flight operations at the new facility has been pushed back to sometime in early January as the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey still needs to finish testing of the terminal’s fire alarm and security systems. The $2.7 billion structure replaces a 40-year-old terminal that had become crowded and outmoded; it has 33 gates, 21 of which will now be operational next month. Terminal A’s centralized check-in hall is expected to handle up to 14 million passengers annually, with separate check-in areas for United, American, JetBlue and Air Canada. (United’s Terminal C will still handle the bulk of its flight operations at EWR. Delta plans to start using the new Terminal A after the second phase of construction gives it another 12 gates.)

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